UNC Rugby

Tour Report: Down Under 2001

A few of the guys in Christchurch, New Zealand
by Stanley Olshefski

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The Beginning...
Few of us knew what kind of adventure we were about to get into as we converged upon the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Slowly, but surely, we began to realize that this was going to be an adventure we won't soon forget.

The first tour rules that we learned, even before we left RDU, was that plans will change and nothing in rugby ever occurs on time. Our Delta flight from Raleigh to Atlanta was delayed, first, by mechanical problems and, second, by a thunderstorm over Atlanta. Between both delays, we missed our connection and had to hitch the next flight out to Los Angeles (thankfully there was one taking off about 45 minutes after we landed). Thanks to the efforts of Sean Heaney, Delta was nice enough to give us enough meal vouchers to get us a whole Burger King Extra-Value Meal.

We eventually arrived in Los Angeles ready for the next leg of our journey. A quick change of terminals, followed by a talk with a man who claims he saw half the All Blacks coming through LAX one time, got us ready for the long-haul flight to Auckland.

The flight should have been completely uneventful, which it mostly was, except half-way throught the flight (about 60 miles from Honolulu) the flight crew started running around like they were chickens with their heads cut off. Well, everything was fine, enough said.

We eventually landed after only 12 hours in the air. Once on the ground, I one of the funniest things I might ever see. Adam "Hamburglar" Powell was trying to take his 18-hour old hamburger from Burger King in Atlanta past the New Zealand customs folks, needless to say, they didn't like that.

New Zealand
Auckland. . .

Being jet-lagged and all, we quickly spread out throughout Auckland in search of the sights we came to see. But before we spread out throught the streets of Auckland, Mr. C. J. MacDonald informed us that we would have a practice session later that afternoon. Before sending everyone on our way he found two Brits in the hostel to join us on the rugby pitch.

Auckland was a really cool city to visit on all accounts. The tour party spread out throughout downtown to visit the Sky Tower, IMAX Theater, casino and New Zealand National Maritime Museum (among others).

That afternoon we collected ourselves in the lobby of our hostel before heading out to a local park for a training session. What would have been a simple 15 minute walk turned into a 45 minute affair when Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Heaney insisted on taking a bus to the pitch. Needless to say, we waited longer than 15 minutes for the bus to show up.

Day two found us heading down to Hamilton for our first match against the Harlequins of New Zealand. This was sort of a motley on motley match, because the boys we played were from four different local schools.

Before the match we headed somewhere special, the Cambrige Stud Farm. Its a local tradition for all visiting international clubs (including visiting Super 12 teams) to visit the farm before they play any Waikato team.

As for the first match, UNC lost 22-0. Sean Heaney provided his recap of UNC's First Test Match for all to read.

The post match festivities included a traditional New Zealand dinner and local varities of amber provided by the local club. Our fearless leader participated in the tour tradition of exchanging momentos, UNC gave the Harlequins a UNC banner and several tour tee shirts, while the Harlequins returned the favor with a Waikato jersey and flag and a plaque.

The match against the Harlequins was a replacement for a match UNC was supposed to play against the Onewhero RFC. It turns out the only side they could provide us was their senior side that included three All Blacks. We respectfully declinded the offer to get our asses kicked royally.

The next night was the Super 12 final between the Sharks and the Brumbies. Most of the boys watched the match from inside the legendary Left Field on Auckland's water front. The crew of Wild on E! visited the Left Field only two days after our visit. . . why couldn't they have come when the real wild ones were in town.

Before we left Auckland many of the boys treked to one of the volcanic islands in Auckland's habour. It was a cool place to spend a autumn afternoon.

In a move that can only be labeled pure genius or stupidity, our flight to Christchurch was scheduled to depart at 6:15 a.m. Needless to say we arrived at 5:15, more than an hour before the airport even opened.

Christchurch. . .

As soon as we arrived in Christchurch our plans changed yet again, all the boys decided to skip Christchurch for a few days and go to Queenstown (the adventure sports capital of the world).

The funny thing about domestic flights in New Zealand is that it's like bus service in the United States or Europe, you just pitch up the gate and that's about it.

Everyone agreed that the best thing to do was to rent some cars to head out to Queestown. Half the adventure in this sport was driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

Throughout the several hour drive to Queenstown we were amazed by the fact that towns of only a few hundered people had their own rugby grounds complete with clubhouse.

The drive also had many excellent views of the natural scenery of the South Island of New Zealand. . . mountains and goats. We had several excellent views of the Alpine lakes and mountains that are along the route to Queenstown. It was definitally worth the price savings to rent the cars—with 17 people we saved money even after gas.

All I know is that one car full of UNC ruggers was very happy to have the O-Factor in their Ford Falcon Station Wagon, otherwise they would have had a very lovely trip to the very north tip of the South Island of New Zealand instead of going to New Zealand. The infamous question of the day was "Aren't those mountains supposed to be on the other side of the car?" Within seconds the duo of captain Medlin and navigator Garrish reversed direction so that we might actually make it to Queenstown that day—'nough said.

Queenstown. . .

Queenstown is sort of the Aspen of New Zealand. An expensive, yet fun town on New Zealand's South Island. We loved it of course.

After checking into our hostel several of us decided that bungy jumping was our calling. The infamous Thunderbird Five called our name out loudly. Before heading out for our adventure the next morning, the tour picked up another honorary member—a YHA staff member visiting New Zealand from Australia.

The Thunderbird Five was a helicopter ride, bungy jump, flying fox, jet boat and 4WD experience. Despite being only a 10-15 minute helicopter ride the pilot made it exciting by flying close to the mountains and making exhillerating movements. It was a blast, needless to say, despite the cold weather.

The bungy jump was, of course, the highlight of the Thunderbird Five. It was a 102 meter (340 foot) jump off a reconstructed pipeline bridge into a Skippers Canyon. That's the right way to do a bungy jump.

After two nights of seeing The World and various of other night spots—including Casbah and Red Rock—UNC was ready to head off to see other places.

The Ride to Dunedin . . .

Most of the boys headed back to Christchurch, but a few “nuts” decided to check out the Scottish Capital of the Southern Hemisphere. Those nuts were the sad combination of Craig MacDonald, Douglas Pickles, Stan Olshefski and Dave Fernandez. The road to Dunedin was paved with a little bit of adventure—by that I mean Craig's driving—and a stop off at a true country pub. I have never been to a pub that was quite literally in the middle of no where, this place was no where near civilization—unless a pack of sheep larger than the entire human population of New Zealand counts. It was an interesting place that ruggers 10,000 miles away in Chapel Hill would appreaciate, including a jukebox filled with 1980s hits (remind anyone of Bub's on a Tuesday night).

Dunedin . . .

Our jaunt to Dunedin was just long enough to enjoy everything this displaced Scotish town has to offer. The very first thing us ruggers visited was the hallowed grounds of the House of Pain at Carisbrook. We received our visitor passes and inspected the grounds inside and out. Our next stop was to search for an affordably priced hostel. After our mountain climbing adventure to find a hostel room perched on top of very large hill overlooking Dunedin failed, we settled for a hostel right next door to the world-famous Speights brewery.

That evening we toured the town of Dunedin in search of two things, beer and a Highlanders/Otago tobogan (that's a winter hat if you're from the South). We found both, the former was right next to the University of Otago. We also stopped at several other establishments after warming up from the rain with a few rounds of New Zealand's finest amber.

The next morning we took advantage of the few hours we had before we left to visit the New Zealand settlers museum and the New Zealand sports hall of fame in Dunedin. Then we hit the road for an adventure back up to Christchurch for our match that night against the "big farmers' boys" of Lincoln University.

The Ride Back to Christchurch . . .

It was one adventurous ride back to Christchurch. Craig found out that the boys who went back the day before were unsuccessful in finding any replacements to fill out UNC's touring side of 14. In desperation, or possibly out of pure genius, Craig picked up a hitch hiker. It turned out that the fellow was a Kiwi and played rugby at least several times in his life. He needed a ride up to Christchurch on his by to Wellington (on the North Island) by way of a ferry.

In what can only be described as a bribe, Craig pretty much forced the fellow to play rugby with us. The final deal was one six pack, a hostel bed, a meal and NZ$10 (about US$4.25). It turned out that this bloke played one million times better than both English chaps and the American bloke who claimed he was real good that we picked up in Auckland. He actually played better than most American Division I collegiate backs, despite the fact that he only played rugby "once or twice" several years ago.

Christchurch. . .

That night we were slotted to play the "farmers' boys, big farmers' boys" of Lincoln University in UNC's Second Test Match. Early on in the match it looked like UNC's boys were going to be able to keep up and play with the Lincoln boys, that was still true going into the half—Lincoln 12 UNC 3. The second half brought some changes and a slowly tiring UNC squad. Before UNC knew it, the score ran away from them and the final score ended up 48-3 in favor of Lincoln. In addition to the loss, UNC also lost Dave Cook for the rest of the tour when he seperated his shoulder late in the match.

The post match reception was good. There was a selection of local amber and a selection of food and hors d'oeuvres. UNC thanked Lincoln with a UNC banner and several tour tee shirts, while Lincoln returned the favor with a Merlins shirt autographed by one of their All Blacks—who could not be there because he was training with the All Blacks.

After the match UNC's boys split up into two groups, one spent the night on the town near Lincoln University while the other spent the night near the hostel. The group that stayed out with the three Lincoln boys who weren't busy with exams had a great time—unfortunatally, they won't even tell me why. The other boys had a good time to, but nothing like the other boys. I myself spent the wee hours of the morning drink my favorite amber—Killkenny—and playing billiards.

The next morning we waved goodbye to our friend from Wellington and spent the morning exploring Christchurch. Our boys spilt up their own ways in search of mementos, sights and one last adventure in New Zealand. That afternoon we were scheduled to hop on board our flight to Melbourne. Another surprise, Air New Zealand could not provide us with a plane that had an entertainment system, so they gave us NZ$20 vouchers to use at an airport book store—enough said.

Melbourne. . .

The biggest surprise that we had upon arriving in Melbourne was the desire for the Customs Service to wash our rugby boots. As part of the plan to keep the country free of things kick madcow—which was ravaging the U.K. at the time—the friendly quarantine folks offered to wash our boots for us. Maybe I'll travel to Australia between every match so they can wash my boots.

Once the entire team got their boots washed we headed to our hostel which was located in North Melbourne. Everyone was too tired to go out that night, so I myself explored the scene around our hostel—which was located about a half mile from the University of Melbourne.

Mr. Heaney and his lady Laura decided that we were too cool for them, so they stayed at Sean's counsin's flat about a half-hour away from our hostel.

The next day the team split up to explore the city, before our match against the University of Melbourne. We visited the Zoo, the Victoria Street Market and downtown.

In the day's match, UNC played Trinity College of the University of Mebourne. We were supposed to play 15s for UNC's Third Test Match, but they could only get 12 people out to play and we were now short two players. We agreed to play a game of 10s, so that we could play some rugby. UNC beat Trinity College on some very impressive play by yours truely—Stan Olshefski. During the 10s match UNC reintroduced the Leap Frog Lineouts that were introduced at the 2000 New York Sevens. In the second match of the day we played 7s, but this time UNC would not prevail, because Trinity was supported by faster runners and fresher legs.

The post match festivities were a little different at the Trinity College than for the previous two matches. We joined the boys for dinner at the Trinity cafeteria—be thankful that you have Lenior at UNC because the food was nothing to call home about.

UNC finished out their visit to Melbourne by exploring the downtown and night scene—guided by a few Americans studying at the University of Melbourne. To close out the stay in Melbourne, UNC went to a footy match at the world famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). We watched the Hawthorn Hawk take on the Port Adelaide Power. We didn't care who won, only that we were immersed in the match, with Power and Hawthorn fans screaming "Power, Power, Power" and "Hawthorn, Hawthorn, Hawthorn." It was an experience that I soon won't forget.

We said goodbye to Melbourne in search of the riches that Sydney had to offer. It was a sad goodbye.

Sydney. . .

Once again, Stan's navigation proved superior to the other lads on tour when we were trying to get to the Sydney Central YHA. We walked about six blocks before realizing that Stan was right when he said to go in the complete opposite direction.

The first night in Sydney was marked by the UNC ruggers hanging around their hostel for some fun and entertainment. The trio of Pickles, MacDonald and Olshefski organized a cookout and festivities on the roop top of the hostel. We had chicken, chops, steaks, salad and of course lots of amber to fill us up before most of the boys headed downstairs to the establishment below the hostel.

Our first full day was filled with sight seeing, including a harbor tour via boat. On the tour, which departed from Darling Harbour, we saw the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and the entrance to Sydney Harbor. This was a day full of sightseeing throughout the city. That evening a few of the Carolina boys decided to visit Derek "Del Boy" Cool who was studying at the University of New South Wales in Coogee. Some of the other boys spent the night checking out the sights of the Kingscross section of Sydney.

Unbeknownst to most of the tour party, Navy started their Australia tour the same day that our boys were touring Sydney Harbor. In fact, I thought I saw of number of Navy Rugby tee shirts, along with several other American collegiate rugby tee shirts such as Cal Rugby.

The next day a good portion of the Carolina boys decided to hit the beach, the world famous Coogee Beach. Silent Bob, Big W, John Wright and Aaron Garrish tested the surfing while the O Factor tested the surf. The other boys decided to act like lassies and say out of the invirgorating surf—a brisk 55 degrees.

Day three was primarily filled with more sightseeing or relaxing at the hostel. That night was UNC's Fourth Test Match and final match of the tour. After the match against Saint John's College of the University of Sydney, the boys would relax be able to concentrate on relaxing in the world Down Under. But first they had to step up the the challenge. UNC kept up with the boys in the first half with the reinforcements we picked up, Derek Cool and a few of his University of Sydney friends—unfortunatally he only picked up American rugby players. At the half UNC was down 15-5, but the score was closer because Saint John's put one in right before the half and UNC controlled the ball for most of the half. The second half saw a degradation of back play and control up front at the rucks and mauls bringing a final score of 34-10 in favor of the Aussies.

After the match the Saint John's boys showed up hospitality in the form of their College's own bar and passed out NAZI looking tee shirts that few of us took and actually wore. The tee shirts weren't supporting NAZI's, but they used a Phoenix that some of realized later resembled the one the NAZI's used in World War II—that was kind of fuck up. After the post-match celebrations UNC adjourned a local night spot for the infamous Kangaroo Court. The honorable justices used the recently used Graduation Caps and Gowns to play the part of the best dressed justices ever. After court the tour party adjourned to the Sydney Opera house so that Craig could fulfill his promiss to landshark at Midnight sharp.

Our adventure in Sydney ended with Silent Bob failing in his quest to bring his father the ultimate present from tour, Boga Grips.

Jason Du Bray and his sister Carrie decided to stay in Sydner a few more days instead of going up to Fraser Island. Carrie played some rugby herself for the Australia Army side, she helped them beat the Australia Navy. Carrie is apparently quite an accomplished prop, she's planning to try out for the Eagles in 2002.

The company of Douglas Pickles was also lost for Fraser Island because his dad fell ill back home in Scotland. Fortunatally, his dad ended up fine back at home.

Fraser Island. . .

The final installment of Down Under 2001 came on Fraser Island. The boys caught a five hour coach ride from Brisbane to Hervey Bay. While up there they stayed at one of the most interesting hostels anyone has ever stayed at.

After one night in the hostel the boys loaded up to go to Fraser Island. We had mordern Landrovers to visit the world largest sand island. Before departing, the staff of our hostel noted how we had the most amber they ever saw any group take to the island.

Upon making the several mile barge crossing to Fraser Island the boys set off to visit a beautiful perched lake on Fraser. They also partaked in a little bit of amber and enjoyed the day before they hit the beach for some real driving. The main beach of Fraser Island is officially a national highway in Australia. After viewing the sights of an old ship wreck and wadding through a creek the boys set sail for their night destination.

That night the likes of Steve Buechner and the O Factor cooked some stir fry for the boys while they built a fire and told stories, played games and sung rugby songs out in front of the campfire (it gets dark at around 6 p.m. at that time of year—all while enjoying some amber. Dinner was great.

Before too late we were visited by a ranger who talked to us about making sure we kept our food away from the wild dingos on Fraser Island. The same bloke would declare, the next morning, that we had the cleanest campsite he had seen in a long time on Fraser Island. The night was capped off by some midnight games on the beach and star gazing into the crystal clear night sky. Be forewarned if you ever visit Fraser, don't go swimming because there are some mean sharks that visit very close to the shore.

In the morning we visited the champagne pools and enjoyed a little bit of swimming, sunbathing and people watching (no there were no topless sunbathers). We then started our trip back to the lake we visited the day before, where we decided to camp that night so that we could get back to the ferry in the morning.

Although the cooking and excitement were not as good the second night we still had a blast before adjourning to our quarters for the night. In the morning we hit the barge back so that we could make it back to Brisbane that night, because our flight home was early the next morning.

The End. . .

The tour party split up at this point with Craig and his two mates Ollie and Fitz causing trouble along the Great Barrier Reef before catching a British Lions match in Brisbane.

Simon Jones, Sean Heaney and Laura also spent extra time in Australia. They all said the enjoyed the extra time and places they visited.

The adventure back home was long and arduous. On the flight from Auckland to Los Angeles we met up with an American high school squad from California who toured New Zealand for two weeks, wow that's progress for youth rugby in America.

Our long adventure ended in Raleigh with everyone eventually making it back by the orginal end time. It was a crazy fun-filled three weeks, I only wish I could do it again.

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Created Jan 03, 2006. 04:00 pm
Modified Jan 03, 2006. 04:00 pm